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Alan R. Solomon papers, 1907-1970, bulk 1944-1970

Alan R. Solomon papers, 1907-1970, bulk 1944-1970

Solomon, Alan R.

Art historian, Educator, Museum director

Representative image for Alan R. Solomon papers, 1907-1970, bulk 1944-1970

This site provides access to the papers of Alan R. Solomon in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2017, and total 15,763 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of the Alan R. Solomon papers is provided by the Lichtenstein Foundation.

Collection Information

Size: 9.9 linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York art historian, museum director, curator, writer, and educator, Alan R. Solomon, measure 9.9 linear feet and date from 1907-1970, with the bulk of the material dating from 1944-1970. Through biographical material, correspondence, interview transcripts, writings and notes, teaching and study files, subject files, exhibition files, business records, printed material, and photographs, the collection documents Solomon's education, his early teaching appointments at Cornell University, and his subsequent direction of many diverse curatorial and research projects relating to contemporary American art, particularly the transition from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements, and the thriving New York City art Scene.

Biographical material includes résumés, an engagement book, and a monthly planning book from 1965, identification cards, and educational transcripts.

Correspondence documents Solomon's education at Harvard College and Harvard University, and his teaching appointments at Cornell University. Correspondence also provides some documentation of his involvement with museums and arts organizations, including the Jewish Museum, Stedlijk Museum, the San Francisco Art Institute, the University of California, and Centro de Artes Visuales; his submission of writings for publications including Artforum, Art International, and Konstrevy; and his relationships with artists and colleagues including Jim Dine, Joan Kron, Audrey Sabol, and Ileana Sonnabend. Also found is correspondence related to Solomon's work for Mary Sisler, who employed Solomon to sell her collection of artwork by Marcel Duchamp in the late 1960s.

One series comprises transcripts of interviews with many of the artists who were central to the transition from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Neo-Dada and Pop art. Artists represented in the interviews include Jim Dine, Helen Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol.

Solomon's writings include many of his essays for exhibition catalogs, magazines, and journals, and are in a combination of annotated manuscript and published formats. There are writings on Jim Dine, Barnett Newman, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns, and on the new movements in theater and performance art of the 1960s. His writings also document the art history education which informed all of his later work, with the inclusion of papers written as a student and teacher, his honors thesis on Odilon Redon, and his dissertation on Pablo Picasso. This material is supplemented by notes, and teaching and study files, documenting courses taken and taught at Harvard and Cornell universities. Also found is the manuscript of the text for "New York: The New Art Scene," accompanied by a partial published copy of the book and photographs by Ugo Mulas.

Solomon's subject files augment several of the other series, comprising material on various art related subjects and individual painters and sculptors, arranged alphabetically. Material found here includes printed matter documenting exhibitions and other events, scattered letters from artists, related writings, and photographs.

One series documents Solomon's involvement with the First New York Theater Rally, which he co-produced with Steve Paxton in 1965. This material includes a drawing each by Jim Dine and Alex Hay, pieces of a combine by Robert Rauschenberg, and photographs of the group including Dine, Hay, and Rauschenberg, as well as Lucinda Childs, Judith Dunn, Deborah Hay, Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, the Once Group, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainier, Alan Solomon, and Robert Whitman. The series includes multiple contact sheets of photos of First New York Theater Rally events, by Peter Moore, Elizabeth Novick, and Terry Schute.

Exhibition files document Solomon's role as an organizer and curator for some of his most well-known exhibitions, including American Painting Now (1967) for Expo '67 in Montreal; Andy Warhol (1966) at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; Dine-Oldenburg-Segal (1967) at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Albright-Knox Gallery; the American exhibition at the 1964 Venice Biennale; Young Italians (1968) at the Institute of Contemporary Art; and Painting in New York 1944-1969, a major retrospective installed for the opening of the new Pasadena Art Museum in fall, 1969. Records include correspondence, lists and notes, financial records, printed material, and photographs of artists and installations, including a series by Ugo Mulas taken at the Venice Biennale.

Solomon's business records include lists, notes, contracts, expense forms, vouchers, purchase orders, and receipts. They provide scattered documentation of exhibition-related expenses and purchases of artwork, as well as Solomon's income from teaching appointments, lectures, honorariums, and writings. Amongst Solomon's general business records is an American Federation of Musicians agreement between the Institute of Contemporary Art and "Louis Reed," with booking agent Andy Warhol, for a performance by the Velvet Underground and Nico, performing as The Exploding Plastic Inevitable on October 29, 1966. This seemingly mundane item documents an event that accompanied Solomon's landmark Warhol exhibition of nearly forty iconic works, and the accompanying show by The Exploding Plastic Inevitable was hailed by the Boston Phoenix newspaper as one of the greatest concerts in Boston history.

Printed material includes announcements, catalogs, and posters for exhibitions and art related events, including two Jasper Johns lithographs for a 1960 exhibition at Galerie Rive Droite, and a 1963 exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery. Also found are news clippings, press releases, and other publications.

Photographs are of Solomon, artists, friends and colleagues, exhibitions and other events, and artwork. They include snapshots of Solomon, and a series of photographs of him at various events and parties, many taken by Ugo Mulas, as well as a photo taken by Robert Rauschenberg of Ugo Mulas, Michele Provinciali, and Solomon. Additional photos by Ugo Mulas include some which were probably taken for "New York: The New Art Scene," and a series of photos of Robert Rauschenberg and others at the Venice Biennale. Photos of artists include Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain, Jim Dine, Marcel Duchamp, Öyvind Fahlström, Laura Grisi, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Claes and Patty Oldenburg, Larry Poons, James Rosenquist, George Segal, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol and The Factory. Photos of others include Leo Castelli, Clement and Jeanine Greenberg, and Ethel and Robert Scull. Also found are photos of the exhibition "Toward a New Abstraction" (1963), at The Jewish Museum, photos of Venice, and photos of artwork by many of the above named, and other, artists. In addition to Ugo Mulas, photographers represented in this series include Nat Finkelstein, Robert R. McElroy, and Hans Namuth.

Biographical/Historical Note

New York art historian, museum director, art consultant, educator, writer, and curator, Alan R. Solomon (1920-1970), organized over two hundred exhibitions in the course of his career.


The Leo Castelli Gallery served as executor of Solomon's estate, and donated his papers to AAA in 1974 and in 2007.


Funding for the processing and digitization of the Alan R. Solomon papers is provided by the Lichtenstein Foundation.

A Finding Aid to the Alan R. Solomon Papers, 1907-1970, bulk 1944-1970, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
New York art historian, museum director, art consultant, educator, writer, and curator, Alan R. Solomon (1920-1970), organized over two hundred exhibitions in the course of his career. He was known for his skill in exhibition design, and for bringing the perception and understanding of an art historian to the field of contemporary art.
Solomon was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, and educated at Harvard College and Harvard Graduate School. In 1953, during his 1952-1962 tenure with the Cornell University department of art history, he established the Andrew Dickson White Museum of art. Solomon served as the museum's first director until 1961, whilst simultaneously pursuing his doctorate, which he received from Harvard University in 1962.
In 1962 Solomon was hired by the Jewish Museum in New York, New York, and immediately began to take the institution in a more contemporary direction, mounting Robert Rauschenberg's first retrospective in 1963, and a major Jasper Johns retrospective in 1964. Also, in 1963, Solomon was appointed the United States Commissioner for the 1964 Venice Biennale. He was determined to show "the major new indigenous tendencies, the peculiarly America spirt of the art" in works by two consecutive generations of artists, including Jasper Johns, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Robert Rauschenberg. With this in mind, and given the inadequacy of the existing space to house the installation he envisaged, Solomon secured a verbal agreement from Biennale officials to approve additional space for the American exhibition in an annex at the former American Consulate. The agreement was never formalized, however, and a series of administrative problems and controversies over the eligibility of the American submissions threatened to undermine Solomon's efforts. Nevertheless, Robert Rauschenberg became the first American to take the Grand Prize for foreign artist, and the attention garnered by the American exhibition monopolized press coverage of the Biennale. In response, Solomon stated publicly that "it is acknowledged on every hand that New York has replaced Paris as the world art capital."
Solomon subsequently left the Jewish Museum, having engendered resistance to leading the museum in a more experimental direction, away from the traditional Jewish educational aspects of its mission. In the mid-sixties he worked as a consultant and writer for a National Educational Television series entitled "U. S. A. Artists,” which drew on artist interviews, many conducted by Solomon. He also wrote the text for Ugo Mulas's classic photographic study,
New York: The New Art Scene
(1967: Holt Rinehart and Winston).
In 1966 Solomon was hired by the United States Information Agency to organize the United States contribution to the Canadian World Exhibition in Montreal, known as Expo '67. His stunning
American Painting Now
installation placed large scale paintings by twenty-three artists, including Jim Dine, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Barnett Newman, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and James Rosenquist, inside Buckminster Fuller’s twenty-story Biosphere of Montreal.
Other important exhibitions organized by Solomon included
Andy Warhol
(1966) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, which was only the second of two exhibitions dedicated to the artist;
(1967) at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; and
Young Italians
(1968) at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Solomon was also interested in contemporary theater and organized the First New York Theater Rally with Steve Paxton in 1965, a series of performances which combined new dance and a revival of the Happenings of the early 1960s, in which Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine and others were involved.
Following a six-week appointment as a senior lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, in spring 1968, Solomon became chairman of the University's art department and director of the art gallery. His last exhibition,
Painting in New York, 1944-1969
(1969-1970), was held at the Pasadena Art Museum and closed in January 1970, just a few weeks before Solomon's sudden death at the age of forty-nine.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as eleven series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1938-1968 (5 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1930-1970 (0.66 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Interviews, 1965-1969 (0.25 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 4: Writings and Notes, 1945-1969 (1.35 linear feet; Boxes 1-3, 11)
Series 5: Teaching and Study Files, 1944-1958 (0.25 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 6: Subject Files, 1907-1969 (2.92 linear feet; Boxes 3-6, 1, OV 12)
Series 7: First New York Theater Rally, 1963-1965 (0.15 linear feet; Boxes 6, 11)
Series 8: Exhibition Files, 1954-1969 (1.42 linear feet; Boxes 6-7, 11, OV 12)
Series 9: Business Records, 1945-1970 (0.3 linear feet; Boxes 7-8)
Series 10: Printed Material, 1914-1970 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 8-9, OV 12)
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1951-circa 1970 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 9-11, OV 13)
The Leo Castelli Gallery served as executor of Solomon's estate, and donated his papers to AAA in 1974 and in 2007.
Processing Information note
The 1974 donation of papers was minimally processed before microfilming on reels 3921-3928. This portion, and the 2007 addition, were merged and fully processed, arranged, and described in 2016 by Stephanie Ashley. The collection was digitized in 2016-2017 with funding provided by the Lichtenstein Foundation.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of this collection was digitized in 2017 and is available via the Archives of American Art's Website. Materials which have not been scanned include duplicates; routine tax records; blank pages in bound volumes; blank versos of photographs; and the full text of published material such as exhibition catalogs. In most cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

Alan R. Solomon papers, 1907-1970, bulk 1944-1970. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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